HomeCommentMuckraker: Rule of law given the boot

Muckraker: Rule of law given the boot

LAND Reform and Resettlement minister Didymus Mutasa has scoffed at the Sadc Tribunal’s ruling in the land dispute between government and former white commercial farmers.

Reports last week said the tribunal had ruled that the government of Zimbabwe had violated the law when it seized land from some 78 former white commercial farmers during the reform programme starting in 2000.

President of the tribunal Luis Mondlane is said to have accused the government of Zimbabwe of violating the “treaty governing the 14-nation regional bloc” by compulsorily acquiring white-owned farms for resettlement and denying the farmers the right of appeal in Zimbabwean courts.

“The 78 applicants,” said Justice Mondlane, “have a clear legal title (to their farms) and were denied access to the judiciary locally.”

It’s not evident from media reports whether there was any specific order for the government to reverse the expropriations, but Mondlane ordered the government “to take all measures to protect the possessions and ownership” of the 75 white farmers still on their farms.
Mutasa’s rage immediately boiled over.

He said the tribunal was “daydreaming” if by its ruling it sought to reverse the land reform programme. He said Zimbabwe would disregard the judgement. There was no room for discussion.
“There is nothing special about the 75 farmers and we will take more farms,” declared Mutasa. “It’s not discrimination against farmers but correcting land imbalances,” he said.

Mutasa was backed by the lawyer representing newly-resettled black farmers Farai Mutamangira, who expressed “shock” at the tribunal’s ruling given “so many avenues of escape”. He accused the Sadc tribunal of deciding the land dispute outside its historical context.

“There are more than 100 reasons and grounds upon which the tribunal could made findings in favour of the beneficiaries of the land reform but deliberately chose not to do so,” said Advocate Mutamangira in response to the tribunal’s ruling.

“The tribunal,” he pointed out, “has behaved like a colonial court of the 1950s and 1960s by entrenching and protecting colonial minority interests,” he said.

Both Mutasa and Mutamangira have a point; that is if all that mattered in people’s lives was history. The real question that needs to be answered by our wise man from the East is what has happened to the over 11 million hectares of farm land acquired by government since this programme began in 2000?

Shouldn’t the main focus now be on productivity rather than mere possession given the scale of food shortages across the country? Perhaps that should set Mutasa thinking, rather than telling us that he still wants more productive farms to lay waste. Now that’s what we call shocking!

Anyway, well done to Mutasa for stating publicly that the government will disregard the judgement of the tribunal. It is important to have these examples of ministerial delinquency on the record so that the world knows what sort of rogue regime it is dealing with.

Very simply Zanu PF thinks it can simply make the fatuous assertion that the Sadc Tribunal aims to please colonial masters and then proceed from there to do what it likes on the grounds of some specious sovereignty.

Why then did it agree to the tribunal’s establishment and remit?
And is it seriously suggested that Justice Mondlane and his bench are all colonial tools? How insulting Zimbabwe’s diplomacy has become.

Does the MDC really want to be identified with the likes of Mutasa who is clearly intent upon inflicting maximum damage on the agricultural economy? And since when did the bloody assaults on Michael Campbell and his family represent “correcting land imbalances”?

The court understandably saw it as contempt of court. It is a token of how low this country has sunk that members of its legal fraternity can actually endorse the attack on farmers whose sole crime is to seek the protection of a recognised regional court because our own judges have been told they can’t hear the case.

The amendment to the constitution that created this impairment of due process needs to be consigned to the rubbish tip the minute we have a democratic government. And what sort of outfit exactly is Lawyers for Justice which appears unable to do little more than parrot the views of the more reactionary members of the regime?
We are told there is actually only one member!

There were more shocks for Zimbabweans this week. Before they could fully digest the implications of the Reserve Bank’s revised maximum daily withdrawal limits from $500 000 to $100 million a week, they woke up to shocking reports that some commercial banks had reviewed so-called “service charges” to as high as $2 billion.

It is not clear what the reasons for this shock treatment are. Bank officials reportedly told the Herald this week that the charges were a reflection of the “economic situation” in the country. “It just shows how bad things are. The charges are due to high operational costs,” was the arrogant response.

The banks see no need to explain or justify any rip-off costs they levy on a captive market. It is as if clients are being punished for going to the bank everyday to withdraw an amount which is not enough for a one journey into town. As it turns out, it is the ordinary law-abiding salaried workers being crushed in the undeclared war between the banks and the Reserve Bank. Any wonder why honest traders and crooks alike now opt to shun the formal banking system and keep their money at home!

Gideon Gono should act decisively. Many workers might not be able to get the maximum $100 million after it is gobbled up by monsters masquerading as banks. No wonder they now often refuse to print transaction statements to conceal their daylight customer robbery.

You would imagine, after leaving your bank dejected, that this is the worst that can happen to any individual in a single day. That is until you must reckon with the unmitigated disaster going by the name Zimbabwe National Water Authority.

The latest official death toll is close to 500 people since August. Independent estimates put the figure much higher. Never mind the discrepancy. The point is that no lives should have been lost to a preventable primitive disease such as cholera. Yet in Zimbabwe that is seen as normal and Zinwa can plead a shortage of chemicals.

The excuse is funny enough to make you laugh if its consequences were not so tragic. The rest of Harare this week literally went dry because there was no aluminum sulphate which is one of the key ingredients used in the treatment of water. Zinwa officials reportedly opted to go into hibernation. When the Harare general manager was eventual tracked down to his lair, he said he was on leave.

My foot! Why didn’t the guy take his leave at Budiriro cholera treatment centre? In fact he should be told not to come back to work. We have enough of his peers already brewing cholera at Jaffray Morton water works

We have suffered Zinwa’s incompetence for years since it was imposed on us by the Zanu PF regime. Now it has gone a step further to bring death into our homes in the form of raw sewage and contaminated water. It’s not enough to say enough is enough. This is more than enough. Zinwa bosses and its minister of Water deserve to be flushed into the depths of the darkest septic tank.
Harare residents are phoning and asking: “What’s going on?” Where, we ask?

Well, reports are doing the rounds since last week about a cash turf war between the army and the police and the beating of civilians going about their business.

We have seen the soldiers in the CBD. ZABG Bank Jason Moyo branch had its front windows smashed last Thursday allegedly by soldiers who couldn’t access their cash. The frustrated group of soldiers later harassed foreign currency dealers for cash. By the weekend, so goes the rumour mill, the militant soldiers were clashing with vendors and anyone suspected of having cash.

This allegedly triggered skirmishes with the policemen who felt the soldiers were now straying into their territory. They allegedly depend on foreign currency dealers for lunch money and busfare.
Muckraker is also now keen to know, What’s going on? Could this simmering military agitation be the spur that got Gono to act on cash withdrawal limits?

A reader recently wrote a letter to this paper complaining about the MDC’s information department. Not only does it have too many spokespersons; they each “spoke” with different tongues. Nowhere was this most eloquently demonstrated than in the past two weeks in the party’s reaction to reports that Zanu PF had “unilaterally” drafted and sent Constitutional Amendment 19 to mediator Thabo Mbeki.

This showed bad faith on the part of Zanu PF, we were told in Harare. A furious MDC-Tsvangirai was drafting its own amendment for Mbeki because they had not been “consulted” by Zanu PF blah blah blah! MDC-Tsvangirai secretary-general Tendai Biti wrote to Mbeki saying a ruling the previous week by the Sadc summit for his party to co-manage the Home Affairs portfolio with Zanu PF was a “nullity” and he dismissed as a non-starter a meeting of the negotiators in South Africa on November 25.

To compound a classic case of gross political tactlessness, party leader Morgan Tsvangirai followed this up by “unilaterally” firing Mbeki as mediator, never mind that this amounted to firing the entire Sadc bloc which appointed him and the African Union which endorsed this appointment, and the elementary fact that it was due to the South Africans in general and Mbeki in particular that the MDC is able to talk to Zanu PF today.

Taking a cue from these wild statements, media doomsayers in Zimbabwe and beyond went wilder to pronounce the talks dead, the inclusive government deal dead and buried with the talks and that Amendment 19 was a stillbirth. The wires went white hot off at a tangent even as Mbeki, Zanu PF and the MDC negotiators were agreeing on the original Amendment 19 with only minor changes.

Talk of putting your allies off the spoor, which left the reputations of most of its trusted reporters high and dry! What’s going on at Harvest House?

Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri says police officers should “play a pivotal role in creating a conducive environment to bolster investor confidence in the country…”
It would be interesting to know what progress has been made in the prosecution of Gilbert Moyo and the gang in Chegutu which inflicted such criminal damage upon the Campbell family, evidence of which was flashed around the world? And what will investors think of a minister who says the government will disregard court rulings? What sort of country is that to do business in?

Then there were the pictures of the brutal assaults on Morgan Tsvangirai and his colleagues at a police station two years ago. The president gave his approval. Nothing in recent years has done more to deter investors.

We used to export tobacco and horticultural products. Now we export only cholera.
Chihuri said police officers must remain resolute in supporting government policies “designed to turn around the fortunes of the country”.
But he didn’t say what those policies were! Can he name a single policy that has turned around the fortunes of the country or which holds a realistic chance of doing so?

‘Health delivery is everyone’s responsibility,” announced the Herald in a front page story on Tuesday. This was a distillation of an appeal by Vice-President Joice Mujuru for a private-public sector partnership in the fight against HIV and Aids.

We resisted the temptation to ask since when the Zanu PF government has volunteered sharing responsibility with anyone? There were juicy pieces to attend to. Mujuru said private assistance was vital to buy equipment, pharmaceutical drugs and to carry out repairs to revive the country’s health delivery system.

 “We should also remind our sons and daughters in the diaspora to also contribute to this new fund, which shall be administered by a committee of people drawn from various sections of society who all have a common goal of seeing a stronger health delivery system,” she said.

This is an appeal directed at two very hostile camps. Business believes Zanu PF is responsible for its current woes due to misguided price controls while those in the diaspora accuse Zanu of driving them from their homeland. It would be interesting to keep an eye on this one to see how it pans out.

General Motors in the United States has asked the government to remove the private jet it leases from the FAA’s tracking device. This, Muckraker has heard, came after the company’s chief executive officer was criticised for using a private jet to travel to Washington to plead for financial aid as a result of the current crisis which has spread to Europe and Japan.
Is there a lesson here for our political authorities who have no qualms about commandeering planes from the cash-strapped national airline to attend a string of world summits and conferences?



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